Young People and Politics: Apathetic and Disengaged? A Qualitative Inquiry

Author: Nathan Paul Manning

Manning, Nathan Paul, 2007 Young People and Politics: Apathetic and Disengaged? A Qualitative Inquiry, Flinders University, School of Social and Policy Studies

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This thesis is an examination of the prominent discourse which claims young people are apathetic and disengaged from politics. It is argued that this discourse is based upon two faulty conceptual assumptions, firstly, that youth is a period of linear transition to adulthood, and secondly, that the discourse unreflexively applies an unproblematised notion of politics which has its origin in the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment. The research used in-depth qualitative interviews to explore the ways in which young people operating across the political spectrum understand and practice politics. These qualitative findings add to existing studies of young people and politics, which are predominantly quantitative in approach. The findings suggest that the Scottish Enlightenment’s narrow, regulatory, liberal model of politics is the hegemonic model of politics for participants. However, this hegemony is challenged by participants’ own ‘political’ practices, the collapse of liberalism’s public/private divide under conditions of late modernity, and an interconnected sense of self. Moreover, contrary to the discourse of apathetic and disengaged youth, that there are a number of ways of understanding and practicing politics, particularly in light of social processes – such as individualisation, new social movements, and consumerism – driving recent social change.

Keywords: Young People,Politics,Qualitative Research,Young People and Politics

Subject: Sociology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2007
School: School of Social and Policy Studies
Supervisor: Dr Jason Pudsey